The Value of Preparation
1-5. For whom is preparation of value, and why?
1 Paul, the apostle to the nations, urged his fellow minister Titus to “continue reminding [Christians] . . . to be ready for every good work.” (Titus 3:1) That meant that they must be prepared in mind and disposition for some future action.
2 Preparation is indeed valuable in any kind of theocratic endeavor. Of course, the first time you participate in a certain activity, it calls for extra preparation because the field is new to you. But as your fund of knowledge increases, you find that you can draw on the study that you have done in times past, as well as on the experience that you have gained. Nonetheless, no matter how many times you have handled a certain type of assignment, preparation is always of value.
3 Preparation is required, not only of those who have received a talk assignment, but also of everyone who wants to be a well-qualified minister of the good news. After you have shared in the house-to-house work for months or years, you find that you do not need as much time for preparation each time before you go out. Nevertheless, if you do prepare you always will be more effective. So, too, with conducting a Bible study. The first Bible study you conducted required a great deal of preparation. But no matter how many times you have studied that particular material, you will do a better job of conducting the study if you review it again with your particular student in mind. The same is true when you speak on the platform. The experience gained over the years is of great help. But where you have advance notice that you are going to give a talk, never try to do it without preparation.
4 With regard to the Theocratic Ministry School, preparation is of great value for all of us. Each student has a copy of the school program and can note from it the Bible chapters or other material to be featured on any given date. The more preparation you can do, the more you will get out of the school. Failure to recognize the value of advance preparation can deprive you of many of the real benefits.
5 It takes time to prepare, but the results are well worth the effort. Not only does the preparation make it possible to participate helpfully in oral reviews, but it aids you to get the mind of Jehovah and improve your grasp of the “pure language” of truth. (Zeph. 3:9) To make advance preparation for the school a habit, you might arrange for such reading and study to be done with members of your own family or in company with friends. Of course, everyone enrolled in the school has opportunities to give talks, and some suggestions on how to prepare them will be helpful.
6. How should we prepare for a reading assignment in the ministry school?
6 Reading assignments. From time to time reading assignments may be scheduled as part of the Theocratic Ministry School program. To prepare for such an assignment, read the material carefully. Become familiar with the pronunciation of names and difficult words. Practice out loud to achieve a conversational, fluent delivery of the material without hesitation or inaccuracies. And carefully check to make sure that the material can be delivered in the time allotted.
7-11. In developing a talk from a published article, what considerations will help in selecting the specific material to use?
7 Developing a talk from a published article. The first thing to do with this kind of talk is to read the assigned material carefully. Underscore main points or write a brief outline of the main points on a piece of paper. Get a clear view of the principal ideas developed. Now, what material will you select, since there is probably more than you can use in the time allotted? Certain things might beneficially govern the selection of material: (1) Your audience and the setting—if a setting will help demonstrate how the material can be used in a practical way, also (2) your theme and the specific application of the material to be made.
8 Considering your audience, you will want to select material from the published article that they will find interesting and beneficial. If some paragraphs of the published article seem heavy for a certain audience, then concentrate on other paragraphs. Also, a few select scriptures will make clear the reason for the things you are saying. If you consider your audience, you will not try to cover too much material, because, if you rush through it, much of its value will be lost. So it is better to cover a few points well.
9 With many of the student talks, it is beneficial to have a specific setting for your presentation. You might present your material as if you were talking to someone in the house-to-house work; or it might be answering a question on a return visit; or perhaps doing informal witnessing. You might even present it as if you were explaining the matter to one of your own children. There are many other settings that could be used. The important thing when a setting is used is that it be as realistic as possible. So give careful thought to the matter of the setting. Discuss it with other publishers too, because they may have some fine suggestions.
10 What theme have you chosen and what application are you going to make of the material? Select material from the published article accordingly. Exclude points that do not truly contribute to your theme and the objective of your talk. Generally speaking, the ideas that should be covered are there in the article, so it is better to concentrate on that than to try to bring in a great deal of outside material. This does not mean, of course, that an apt illustration could not be worked in, or some other point that will help your audience to appreciate the value of the assigned material. Where possible, be sure to make application of the material to your audience so that all will receive the greatest benefit.
11 After selecting your theme and setting, you may find that some paragraphs of the published article do not fit in well with your talk. You are not required to use the ideas of every paragraph. But do this: Endeavor to select a theme and setting that will allow you to use as generous a portion of the material as seems reasonable.
12. How might we go about developing an assigned list of scriptures into a talk?
12 Developing a list of scriptures into a talk. On occasion you might be assigned a certain list of scriptures, perhaps from the booklet Bible Topics for Discussion or the book Reasoning From the Scriptures if such is available in your language. Your objective then is to develop these scriptures into either a regular discourse or a presentation such as is given in the field ministry. If there are more scriptures in the list than you can cover in the allotted time, select the ones that you want to use. It is best not to try to use more than you can cover effectively in the available time. Then analyze each scripture that you are going to use. Determine your reason for using it. Prepare the presentation in such a way that your introduction of each scripture focuses attention on your reason for using it. Also the way you read a scripture should emphasize the key portion of it. Finally, your application of it will drive the main thought home.
13-15. What steps might beneficially be taken in developing a talk on an assigned subject when no specific published material is designated as the basis for the talk?
13 When just the subject is assigned. There will be occasions, whether on the Theocratic Ministry School, service meeting or other programs, when you may be asked to give a discourse with just a subject assigned to you. No specific material is given you for use as a basis for its presentation. In such cases here is the recommended procedure: Search your mind and jot down points that you believe would be worthy of development. That first step is important. This is what may determine whether your talk will be fresh in its development, or merely a rehash of other people’s thoughts. It may also prevent some aimless searching and reading, for it will have narrowed down the sphere of your research. More than that, it will be more likely to result in a talk expressed in your own style of speech rather than in a style that is foreign to your personality. It may also be helpful to talk about your subject with mature persons. They may have some good ideas on how the subject might be developed.
14 Next you are ready to add to your own information by doing research in the Bible and other publications with the help of a concordance and the Society’s indexes. You can usually get the most out of any publication that you use for research by checking the table of contents first. Then examine the index to see where the material that will be most helpful to you is located. Being selective will save you much time. In your reading there is danger of becoming sidetracked by other interesting points you encounter that are, however, unrelated to your immediate theme. Avoid this by skimming over the material, marking only those sections that you can use. Often all you have to do is to note the topic sentence of each paragraph and then read only those paragraphs that seem to be most appropriate for your use.
15 With your own ideas and those culled from other sources, you are now ready to select the choicest points that can be developed in the time allotted you. In choosing from this wealth of material, ask yourself such questions as: Is it practical? Is it interesting? Will it highlight my theme?
16, 17. What suggestions are given on taking notes?
16 Note-taking. In the preparation and research for any speaking assignment there is need for some means of keeping track of the numerous ideas that develop. Some students have found it helpful to use small cards or slips of paper, setting down on each one some main idea to be used in the talk.
17 The notations may be very brief, usually just sufficient to remind you of the idea. The advantage of this is that brief notes lend themselves to a presentation that is extemporaneous, rather than rigidly adhering to phrases and sentences that have been borrowed from someone else. Jot down the source of your ideas so that you will be able to find the page and paragraph again, if needed. Each main scripture that is going to be relied on as authority should be noted also. Another advantage in the use of cards or slips is that new ones can be added and some deleted during the preparation of the talk, without the need to do a lot of rewriting.
18. Why should we want to be a prepared people?
18 A prepared people. Should there be a tendency to neglect homework in connection with any theocratic assignment, you would do well to reflect upon the importance of preparedness for those who would have Jehovah’s approval. Recall, for example, that John the Baptist was commissioned to “get ready for Jehovah a prepared people.” (Luke 1:17) Those “prepared” Israelites were people who allowed themselves to be molded beneficially by Jehovah’s dealings with them so they would be in a position to do the work that he had in mind for them. So it is with ourselves: By taking full advantage of the Theocratic Ministry School and doing a good job of preparation of each assignment, we allow ourselves to be molded by this program of education that Jehovah has provided. In this way we too become equipped for effective service as ministers of God.